No.16 seed Coco Gauff held off a second-set charge by fellow American Claire Liu to win their clash at the BNP Paribas Open. Also on Friday night, Harriet Dart and Kaia Kanepi notched upset wins, while Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys rallied to avoid the upset bug.
Coco Gauff will make a return appearance in the BNP Paribas Open third round after she held off fellow American Claire Liu 6-1, 7-6(4) in their Friday night clash in Indian Wells.
No.16 seed Gauff, who reached the third round in her tournament debut last year, bested World No.87 Liu in just over two hours of play. Gauff now has lined up an intriguing third-round battle against former World No.1 Simona Halep, which will be on Gauff’s 18th birthday on Sunday.
Halep won their only prior meeting, when she ended then-15-year-old Gauff’s breakthrough run to the round of 16 at 2019 Wimbledon. Halep went on to win the Wimbledon title that year, defeating Serena Williams in the final.
Match moments: Both players were solid fending off break points in the encounter, with 21-year-old Liu saving 11 of the 15 break points Gauff held. But 17-year-old Gauff was even stronger erasing break points, allowing Liu to convert only two of her ten, giving Gauff the edge in service breaks.
Indeed, Gauff looked fully in control after the first set wrapped up in just over half an hour. But the second set proved to be a bruising battle as the compatriots stayed in touching distance the whole way through.
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The pair exchanged breaks twice in the latter stages of the second set, with Gauff unable to convert a match point on her serve at 6-5. Instead, Liu converted her fifth break point of that game to line up a tiebreak.
Liu saw a 3-1 lead in the breaker slip away as Gauff drew errors from her opponent to edge ahead, eventually garnering two more match points after a Liu pass slid wide. Gauff converted the first of that duo at the end of a grueling 88-minute second set once a Liu backhand found the net.
Kerber and Keys rally to avoid the upset bug
No.15 seed Angelique Kerber managed a potentially tough opening draw against rising Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen, winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to advance to the third round. A finalist in 2019, Kerber came back from 1-4 down in the final set to hold off Zheng after 2 hours and 18 minutes. She will face No.23 seed Daria Kasatkina on Sunday.
After saving three break points to hold to 2-1 in the first set, Kerber would win 10 of the last 11 points of the set to break Zheng twice and seal the opener. But No.74 Zheng, who lost five games to Vera Zvonareva in the first round, powered through Kerber’s defensive wall to claim the second set and force a third.
Overpowering Kerber from the baseline, Zheng quickly built a 4-1 lead in the final set before Kerber transitioned to a more aggressive baseline game to turn the tables. The former No.1 closed out her first win of the season by winning five consecutive games, finally converting on her fourth match point.
Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys also needed three sets to dodge the upset bug, defeating Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Keys will face compatriot Alison Riske in the third round after Riske scored a rollercoaster win over No.8 seed Garbiñe Muguruza earlier in the day.
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British qualifier Harriet Dart defeats No.18 Elina Svitolina 26 63 63 to earn the 1st Top 20 win of her career.
Was previously 0-8 vs. Top 20. #IndianWells pic.twitter.com/DEbj9A6yha
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Dart, Kanepi grab upset wins to set third-round clash
Harriet Dart joined fellow Brit Emma Raducanu in the third round, as Dart, ranked No.122, shocked No.12 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Dart had gone 0-8 against Top 20 players in her career coming into the match, but the Brit was able to overcome former World No.3 Svitolina in 2 hours and 17 minutes to at last collect a Top 20 win.
Dart, who qualified for the main draw this week, only converted eight of a whopping 21 break points in the clash, but that would be enough to eke past Svitolina, who broke serve one fewer time than Dart.
Dart’s next opponent will be a veteran who has pulled off notable upsets for a decade and a half: Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. 63rd-ranked Kanepi added to her history of surprises at big events by ousting No.22 seed Belinda Bencic 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 21 minutes.
11 of Kanepi’s 14 career Top 10 wins have come at either Grand Slam or WTA 1000 events, including a victory over Aryna Sabalenka at this year’s Australian Open to make her seventh Grand Slam quarterfinal. Kanepi has reached the quarterfinals at all four Grand Slams.
Though her latest stunner over Bencic is not a Top 10 win, 36-year-old Kanepi can boast of a victory over the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Kanepi won 63 percent of points returning Bencic’s second serve, easing into the Indian Wells third round for the third time.